Multidisciplinary communities in the making: Establishing cross-campus connections in teaching and learning

By Kiara Mikita, Lorelli Nowell and Kim Grant, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

Without question, at every stage in our graduate schooling — and now in our postdocs — our peer communities have been a central part of what made these academic stages so great. Sharing space, struggles and successes with others who are in the same boat makes all the difference. The stumbling and soaring experience of learning together always seems to push our differences to the background.

Learning with and from each other

As Postdocs with disciplinary training in sociology, nursing, and education, respectively, we have experienced the sense of belonging and support provided by community, with the unexpected benefit of our multidisciplinary mix’s prismatic lenses. Some of the biggest (and best) shifts in our own thinking have resulted from this new multidisciplinary postdoc community that we are grateful to have formed.

When these learning communities are multidisciplinary, their richness is beautifully intensified. This is the case for the communities formed in the new Teaching and Learning Badge and Certificate programs, both offered at the Taylor Institute. In these workshop series, communities of grad students and postdocs approach topics of common interest in teaching and learning, sharing questions, insights, and ideas from their respective disciplinary locations. Participants who connect in these workshops are from a spectrum of faculties and departments: folks from the faculties of Vet Med and Arts exchange teaching practices and learning experiences, as do those from the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemical Engineering and the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures, and Cultures. In this series, we learn as much from one another as we do from the teaching and learning material that brings us together.

The benefits of multidisciplinary conversations

Watching these programs’ multidisciplinary communities forming and growing is one of the most pronounced highlights. Take, for example, the SoTL Foundations Programs offered last term, where participants came together from across campus to learn with (and from) one another (those who completed the program were just issued the newly designed SoTL Foundations badges). These workshops’ unanticipated social threads connect people over common interests in teaching and learning, allowing the Taylor Institute to become a place where faces in the bustling campus crowd become increasingly familiar. Our new cohort-based programs – Theories and Issues in Postsecondary Teaching and Learning for Graduate Students and for Postdocs and the forthcoming Developing Your Teaching Dossier – will provide an even greater opportunity to grow multidisciplinary communities as we continue critically (and often playfully) reflecting together about current issues, theories, and research in postsecondary teaching and learning. The opportunity to consider our teaching and learning histories, and to contemplate about ways to better our students’ learning experiences with peers often trained in very different ways, is both significant and unique to these programs.

Come join the conversation

We welcome participants from across campus to share their voices in these community-building conversations about teaching and learning. Alongside our Taylor Institute colleagues, we have the privilege of leading these new programs, and we are motivated anew by the connections we see happening. These badge and certificate offerings inspire the informal benefit of new lenses within multidisciplinary communities, while also encouraging a diversity of perspectives to ensure rich, multidirectional learning. We welcome those interested in learning more about these graduate student and postdoc badge and/or certificate programs to visit their respective webpages, and/or reach out to us directly.

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